Monday, January 10, 2011

Another fine mess you've got us in

 You return to favored places, hopeful of recapturing events and conditions you found comforting, pleasurable, possibly inspiring in the past.  In similar mindset, you return to books you've already read, music you've heard before beyond your ability to remember the number of times.  You also approach these already-read or heard ventures with the distinct hope of discovering something you hadn't noticed before.  In all such returns, you are emphatic in being up for revelations that transport you to places you had yet to visit.

You think Heraclitus had it right when he spoke about not being able to bathe in the same river twice;  the river is different and you bring different experiences as well as any number of new cells to the experience.  Even so, you return to older haunts, even while trying out the new.  After all, if you were to discover a restaurant you enjoyed as much as you enjoy the Via Maestra 42, here in Santa Barbara, wouldn't you want to return for another experience?  If you discovered a writer you admired as much as Joan Didion or Louise Erdrich, wouldn't you wish to fall upon that writer's next work?

In this frame of mind, after a long, collegial discussion about your manuscript with your editor--she who went to bat for it, wanted to acquire it, saw in it an entire dimension you'd not considered when you wrote it--you return to this place where endorphins once sprang forth.  You see a place that seemed magical to you, but now your senses are tuned for something else; your eye falls on an unnecessary word, a too generous hand with a modifier where none was needed.

You returned, looking for the sense of discovery so prevalent during your writing of it, but it is no longer the same place, it is a work place and you are the shop foreman, charged with quality control.  You did not think to return to work, but you should know by now that this what there is.  Soon, July or August, your editor said, there will be books and others will have the opportunity to see if they can find the connections you found, the pleasures and comforts you found, the expansive sense of the writing self as it chews into the concepts before it as though they were discreet meals, made with the hand of a crafter rather than an hourly worker.

Your editor spoke of making the tent large enough to include those who love to read story as well as those who love to write it.  "All this,"  she said, "can go in.  Should go in."  There was a pause, which meant the proverbial other shoe was to be dropped.  "I'm thinking,"  she said, "that the manuscript is already long enough.  But of course, that shouldn't be any problem for you."  Which is her way, the editor's way of saying, "That shouldn't be any problem for you, because, after all, that's what writers do, isn't it?"  How many times have you asked that same rhetorical question from your editor's desk?

Your own question for yourself, opening the file that contains what you intended as the finished product:  Did you come here as a tourist or a worker?

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